The western coast of Alaska is a remote region, rich in wildlife and providing critical nesting habitat for many of Alaska’s seabirds. It is also home to indigenous communities who rely upon the region’s natural resources to support a traditional lifestyle of hunting, gathering, and fishing. Although the region is frequently subject to extensive inland flooding from Bering Sea storms, little is known about the extent and frequency of flooding and its impacts on vegetation, wildlife, and water quality. Furthermore, information is lacking about how climate change and sea-level rise (which can influence the frequency and intensity of storms and subsequent flooding) are affecting this area, its communities, and their infrastructure. Through this project, researchers expanded the current understanding of coastal storms and climate change impacts on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of western Alaska by modeling (1) historical and future storms under likely sea-level rise scenarios, (2) flood extent, depth, and frequency for different storms, and (3) impacts of storms on wildlife abundance, nesting sites, and water quality.
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“Geese on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta - Credit: Kevin Melzo, USFWS”